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Baseball is Still a Great Way to “Pass Time”

by on June 20, 2013 9:54 AM

Having lived in Happy Valley for over 30 years, I am known by most people in State College only as a “hockey guy.” That would be a fair statement most of the time, but I hope I am more than that to those who really know me!

Hockey is undoubtedly a passion but it is also my vocation and therefore not always the most relaxing way for me to spend my down time. We hockey fans absolutely love the NHL playoffs and this spring seen some phenomenal intensity and action.

Last night the Chicago Blackhawks tied the Cup finals series 2-2 with a 6-5 OT win over the Boston Bruins. It was the third overtime game in the finals and further proof that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in all of team sports.

But I personally find it harder all the time to go to a hockey game as a form of relaxation and fun because I inevitably get caught up in being “the old coach” and dissecting the systems and evaluating the play. It is simply hard to separate all the enjoyment of watching the game from a fan's perspective and wanting to critique the game.

Among my choices for relaxation are walking 9 holes of golf, visiting a Civil War battlefield, reading a good Civil War or World War II history book or to watch a good science fiction movie just to ”get away from it all”. The new Star Trek movie is awesome by the way!

Alas, I am at heart, a sports fanatic. I love to watch any high pressure sporting event played at the highest levels, especially in person. Indy 500 ... been there. US Open … check. Masters … yep. Super Bowl ... of course! (Hey, I am a Steelers fan, so of course you find a way to get to a Super Bowl if you are a true Yinzer!).

But for a relaxing and enjoyable night out with the family. few sporting events beat our national pastime. I know what some of you are thinking ... baseball? Exciting? Are you kidding?

To a lot of folks, especially the younger, tech savvy, instant gratification generation, baseball equals slow and boring. I love going to the ballpark to watch but also to hang out with my son, engage in conversation with friends, sip a cold beer and eat peanuts out of the shell, making a mess and not caring!

Last night was one such evening as I attended the Spikes game with my son Ryan (who turns 13 today!) and his Little League All-Star team and all their families. My wife and my 93 year old father-in-law “Smitty”, who was a heck of a second baseman in his day, enjoyed the gorgeous weather and relaxed atmosphere with me.

Typical of me, I brought along my new slim Ultrabook laptop just in case I could get in some work between innings. No chance!

I watched our young State College Spikes play a terrific game in a comeback win. I ran into all sorts of friends and colleagues and was entertained all night by the great show that the Spikes put on for pure family entertainment. Even Spikes GM Jason Dambach stopped by to say hello as he made his rounds of the ballpark interacting with fans (Now that is the definition of getting to know one's audience!).

It was a perfect night for baseball and as relaxed as I have been in a long time. I have been a tad busy doing my part in building the magnificent new Pegula Ice Arena and baseball was just what the doctor ordered.

To me, baseball conjures up some of my favorite memories as a kid. Going to a Pirates game with my dad was always a treat while growing up. My dad played minor league baseball and my brother and I grew up in a baseball and competitive softball family.

I remember the Pirates when Clemente, Stargell, and Steve Blass were the stars and “We are Family” was the theme song of the Pittsburgh faithful in the late 70’s.

My father and I will inevitably get into an argument about who is under more pressure; a golfer standing over a 3 foot downhill curling putt to win a tournament or the batter staring down a 98 mph hurler with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th with a full count and two outs! He answer by the way is … they are both under TREMENDOUS pressure!

Last night was a throwback to the lazy, hazy days of summer of days gone by. This is the last summer of Little League baseball in our household and it has been a great ride. We are very lucky to have outstanding coaches and caring parents and a great group of kids.

Coach Jeff Shoemaker and his wife Katie are good friends and the leaders of our State College Nationals “family”. The kids on the team are a blast. Just look at the nicknames and you know this is a fun bunch: Bubba, Hit-Maker, Spanky, The Wizard, TG 13, Animal, Swinger, Bling-Bling, The Hitting Machine, Turbo, The Franchise, and The Hammer.

The kids and parents are the antithesis of the ugly stories sometimes associated with Little League. It is first and foremost a fun bunch and this summer will be memorable regardless of the outcome of the games.

I will continue to watch the Stanley Cup finals, I will watch game 7 of the NBA Finals, I will tune in to Wimbledon and the British Open, and I will keep an eye on what is going on with PSU Football and the Steelers as the summer moves forward. I may even be foolhardy enough to sneak down to once again tour the Gettysburg Battlefield for the 150th anniversary of that great and tragic battle.

But I will also be at a lot of baseball games; Little League games, more Spikes games, and I will be watching my Battling Bucco’s try to “raise the Jolly Roger” and snap their record for losing seasons (that’s what REAL fans do, stick with their teams through thick and thin …. right Miami Heat fans?).

That’s why baseball is still a great way to pass the time. It’s got a little of everything; strategy, excitement, tension, relaxation, between-innings entertainment, food and drink, and a family atmosphere.

See ya at the ballpark!



From ice hockey to Intercollegiate Athletics and Smeal, JoeBa has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities. Battista was an influential player in the effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley. He is now Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Buffalo Sabres.
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